For the last few weeks I have been traveling through Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan with my dad. The purpose of the trip was to visit and learn in greater depth about these countries.
We ventured to Iraq by way of Dubai. Dubai is a bustling megalopolis erected in the middle of a lifeless desert. Despite lavish extravagance and super modernness, Dubai is fake and uninteresting. Dubai is a hodgepodge of Las Vegas and Disney World, a Mecca of PG-13 entertainment in the center of the middle-east. Attractions in Dubai all seem artificially created to impress tourists while having nothing to do with the country itself.
Despite having a visa to enter Iraq, the immigration process was extremely chaotic. Passport control would reject everyone and make them go get a “visa check” for no reason and this took over an hour and a half. Iraq is not an easy country to come to nor leave.
Starting in Basara we worked our way north toward Baghdad. Nasiriya is home to Ur, the first known capital of a civilized state, the Shumers. A pyramid like structure with multiple levels called a Zikkurat was an ancient place of moon worship. Nearby, the ancient ruins of a once bustling city where it is believed that Abraham once lived.
Much of the violence in Iraq is between Shiites and Sunnis. The dividing difference is pretty much that Shiites believe Ali and his descendents have a direct bloodline to the prophet Mohammed while Sunnis dismiss this. An untold number of deaths have been instilled over this division. The city of Najaf is where Ali is thought to have been murdered and buried. A very holy shrine with Ali's tomb is the landmark Shiite pilgrims from all over Iraq and Iran come to visit. Caskets are carried through about every three minutes. This is not surprising because the worlds largest cemetery is located across the street. Shiite Muslims are honored to be buried near their favorite Saint.
Iraq is a very historic country with fascinating history both old and new. The very first agrarian human civilization formed in the golden crescent of Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates. This is now Iraq! On top of ancient history, a lot of Islamic history took place in Iraq millenia later.
The world famous ruins of ancient Babylon are located in the center of Iraq. The original gates of Babylon were removed for exhibit in Germany but a replica arch towered marking the entrance. Unfortunately during the reign of Saddam Hussein, he envisioned to turn Babylon into a personal amusement park, the precious archaeological ruins were recklessly restored. The real ancient ruins were buried in concrete and modern construction above. However, not the entire site is restored in this way and it is possible to see what the actual well-preserved ruins look like.
A palace of the ousted fascist dictator sits on a hill overlooking Babylon. We were free to walk Babylon and Saddam's palace. There are no restrictions of where you can walk, what you can touch, or for that matter take. This is one of the most massive tourist attractions in the world that is entirely void of tourists.
The lack of tourists in Iraq does not come as a surprise. The country is havoced by security concerns and plagues by terrorist bombings. Security check points are very frequent. Hours are lost to prove innocence at these points while bombings seem to persist regardless. To enter the holy shrines in Karbala, you have to go through more security checks and gropings than you do to board an airplane in other parts of the world.
In the capital city of Baghdad, it is nearly impossible to see anything. Buildings of any importance are hidden away behind cement barricades and endless checkpoints. In an empty square in the middle of Baghdad stands a pillar where the famous toppling of Saddam's statue – and for that matter reign – was toppled by the people of Iraq with the help of the US military.
The Friday morning bird market in Baghdad may be the world's biggest bird mart. I have never encountered the sale of so many birds in the same location anywhere else in the world. After a frisk search by ak47 armed policemen, we entered the blocked off street with the bustle of the New York Stock Exchange and the shrill calls of feathered commodities. While pigeons, mynahs, finches, and fowl dominated the scene, it was impossible to deny the presence of countless psittacines.
An African Grey Parrot growled a death shriek as a seller yanked it out of the cage to show prospective customers. For about $400 an African Grey can be purchased along with a budgie cage that it will most likely be kept in till it succumbs. Ring-necked parakeets, cockatiels, and a handful of Amazons were also available. Most surprised I was to come across several pairs of Jardine's Parrots for sale. I asked the seller what kind they were to which he said “brown-headed Amazon parrot” although I could not mistake Poicephalus. The Jardine's parrots appeared most sickly of all birds sold at the market, laying on the bottoms of feces laiden cages.
Budgerigars were abundant in cages by the hundred. Seed is sold out in the open. The push and shove of the market marks an unbelievable demand for birds in a country that was until recently war torn. I am glad that people are turning to peaceful past times but the conditions are deplorable. I hope that better care of companion parrots can be learned by Iraqi people so that they may enjoy the thrill of parrot ownership without the animal needing to suffer.
We also visited the Baghdad zoo. This was a place suited as much for people watching as for animals. It turned out that the zoo and surrounding amusement park is the go-to place for Iraqis on a Friday afternoon. One aviary houses a hodge podge of small parrot species from Cockatiel to Senegal Parrots. Another aviary mixed Blue and Gold Macaws with Green-Winged Macaws. The red macaws got in a fight with the blue ones. When I was asked why they were fighting, I replied "for the same reasons that Sunnis and Shiites fight."
Around Iraq it was very difficult to take photos of virtually anything. Photography of security checkpoints or soldiers is very strictly prohibited and just about any direction you look there is some kind of security. To get onto the plane in Baghdad, a total of eleven security checks was required. Cars are not even allowed within miles of the airport. You are required to transfer and pay for an airport approved car which is then checked three times before entering the airport grounds. At each checkpoint everyone must disembark while bomb sniffing dogs patrol and hoods are opened. Security at Kennedy airport is a breeze by comparison.
Erbil is the capital of the autonomous region of Kurdistan. The Kurds are not Arabs and speak their own Kurdish language. They were persecuted by Saddam Hussein and remain skeptical of the new Iraqi government. Yet, Erbil is one of the richest and safest cities of Iraq because of Kurdish trade with Turkey.
In Kirkuk we encountered another small bird market consisting of small shops. I was surprised to see crammed cages full of Starlings. I have no idea what they could be used for and if anyone has a clue, let me know. Again some parakeets and budgerigars were being sold. This was a tiny bird market compared to the one in Baghdad but it still shows how popular birds are throughout the country.
We made an overland crossing from Iraq to Iran which took many hours. The complexity of crossing this border was only comparable to some of the most troublesome of African countries. The border agents had never encountered foreign travelers making their way through these parts and simply did not know what to do. They copied everything from passports and questioned us about everything just to be sure they were doing things correctly. The adventure continues in Iran.
I flew by airline to Phoenix, Arizona for a few days to help my favorite rescue, Ginger's Parrots. Although not new on the scene, the rescue recently incorporated and acquired 501c3 status. On Saturday we held a Grand Opening event for Ginger's rescue to celebrate making everything official and to draw attention to the organization.
Ginger's Parrots is a new kind of rescue specializing only in certain species of parrots and with a different approach. Most rescues inevitably become overfilled with parrots as the number of unwanted birds only grows while the birds live long. So instead of focusing on quantity, Ginger focuses on quality instead. Running the small rescue out of her own home, Ginger works individually with the parrots to prepare them for pet life. Rather than trying to get the birds adopted to anyone that will take them, her focus is to make the birds as good or better than baby parrots that can be bought at stores. If the birds are good, they have a much better shot at staying in the same home than in the condition they were brought to the rescue.
The Grand Opening Event brought a nice turn out and collection of donations. I offered a talk on my well-behaved parrot approach as well as a harness training demonstration. During the demonstration with parrots from the rescue I was able to demonstrate the harness desensitization process with visible progress. One of the Senegals was doing so well that I challenged him all the way to voluntarily walking across the perch to sticking his head into the harness collar.
As the event continued, I signed copies of my book, the Parrot Wizard's Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots. The rescue event was a very suitable place for selling these books as Ginger applies the techniques I teach in the book on her rescue flock. Also she wrote the foreword to the book based on her success applying my methods to a whole lot of parrots.
I had already been to Ginger's rescue twice and conducted a lot of training work with the birds, setting in motion an approach that Ginger has continued. However, we have bold goals for these birds so there are further skills they could learn. This time, I set a goal of initiating harness training with the birds so that Ginger could take them out and socialize them with people more frequently. Considering the novel no-clipping policy at the rescue, outdoor safety can only be assured with a harness or carrier. The trouble with a carrier is that it doesn't get hands on time with the birds so it narrows everything down to harness.
Since the main focus of the rescue is Senegal Parrots, aggression is the key target for rehabilitation. Ginger has noted a tremendous decline in biting while an increase in confidence with the birds since they've been flighted. Although the birds are capable of flying away, they generally don't. They merely use their awareness of being able to fly away to drive their confidence to cooperate without reverting to biting. One challenge, however, has been to keep the Senegals from fighting with each other as they are no longer geographically isolated because they can fly.
One of the solutions to reduce territorial issues with the parrots (while also simplifying cleaning) is to eliminate the long standing trees (which were arranged one per bird) in favor of a more communal approach. We wheeled all the tree stands out of the room and set out to make a full new set of hanging play gyms instead. I shipped ahead a bundle of NU Perch sticks I was donating for the bird room remodeling. On the spot we bought a few additional supplies and in 2 afternoons built 8 original play gyms and hung them from the ceiling. The all hanging approach eliminates base cleaning and makes a single cleaning of the floor a lot easier. It also provides an unstable platform that stimulates the birds to think more about getting around. It has been a blast watching the birds get around their stands because they tip and rotate in place as they climb. When one parrot flies off a stand, the remaining parrots end up going for a merry go round ride. The birds were so preoccupied with the new stands that they were too busy to get into fights with each other.
To ease the transition to the new stands, I played a targeting game with the birds to encourage them to climb around. Not only was I able to get them to climb to all ends of individual stands but between stands as well. One particular Senegal who has been really difficult to tame, really took to target training. In a single attempt, I was able to teach him to target. I'm sure he'd been watching the other Senegals and had it all figured out. He was just waiting for the opportunity to be involved as well. In no time I had him climbing between playgyms and flying to other perches for opportunities to target.
A different Senegal has recently regained his flight feathers but was unsure how to use them. He seemed very eager to target but just didn't fly for it. So I put together a set of Training Perches and began the perch to perch targeting method of teaching him to fly. Before the evening was over, the parrot that just didn't know how to fly across 4 inches, was flying 15 inches between stands with ease. An interesting thing is that he wasn't really doing it for the food. He was much more eager to fly across the gap to target (ultimately for a treat) than directly for a treat lure. Since the birds get to watch each other targeting, they see a particular excitement for the opportunity to play. The motivation they exhibited in targeting around the room far exceeded their hunger for treats motivation.
The morning after the event and upon the 5th harness training session, I got a harness entirely on the promising Senegal. Ginger and I took him to a Sunday morning parrot group that meets at a park with their birds. Although this was sooner than I would have liked to put a harness on a parrot in this stage of training, we went for it for lack of time. However, I knew this would not be a problem because this was a super tame bird that doesn't mind being held. He was not upset having the harness on (which is important to avoid trouble putting it on next time) but he did want to chew it. To reduce chewing, I grasped him in my hand, through a towel, or did things to occupy his attention as much as possible. Once at the park outing, he was preoccupied with the activity and paid less attention to the harness.
I taught Ginger about socializing the parrot to complete strangers and went from very controlled interactions to random interactions based on my 12 step socialization approach. The Senegal went from hand to hand, allowed people to scratch him, and didn't bite anyone. The outing was a tremendous success and we got a harness upon him with ease for another outing the following day.
Since that Senegal Parrot is extremely hand tame and enjoys laying in hands, I held onto him a lot to keep him from chewing the harness. Since the squeeze of my hand is more noticeable than the harness it took his mind off of it. I began playing a game with him and in no time taught him a new trick which is to allow me to toss him in my hand like a bean bag.
The event, bird room remodeling, training, and outings have been a tremendous success. Not only have we made big improvements but we also set things for continued improvement in the future. I signed countless books and talked to parrot owners. Although I hope these things were educational, most of all I hope that they were inspirational. Rather than expecting someone who came to one of my talks - or met us on an outing - to have the skills to succeed, I hope to leave them with the inspiration to continue their education and to set goals of what to achieve. I want people to realize that parrots young or old, friendly or mean, can all learn these basic pet skills. If I can teach these rescue parrots to wear a harness or target fly in such a short span of time, then surely any parrot owner can achieve these things with a little more patience.
I have received much criticism of my atypical approach to using the clicker from beginners to experts alike. Many have noticed that I don't always give treats after using the clicker and that I make clicks while training two parrots simultaneously. I'd like to take a little time to explain how and why I am doing this and the impact it has on parrot training.
First of all, let's go over the typical approach to using a clicker as a bridge. At the moment the parrot does the right thing, a click is issued by the trainer using a clicker. Then at the trainers soonest convenience, a treat is given to the parrot. In other words, the clicker is a promise to give a treat as reward for the behavior being performed at the moment of the click. This is a highly effective techniques for capturing and shaping behaviors in training. Using the clicker can consistently and precisely mark the desired behavior so that the parrot can catch on and repeat it more readily.
I have used and do recommend the standard method of clicker training described above. For the vast majority of parrot owners, trainers, and performers, this may be the optimal approach. However, I have taken the clicker a step further and would like to present my method for those parrot owners and trainers that want to achieve even greater success with clicker training. The fundamental prerequisite is 6-18 months of consistent and successful clicker training using the standard method. The parrot should have already learned a bunch of different tricks and be reliable at demonstrating them. Attempting my special approach with an inadequately trained parrot will surely ruin the clicker and confuse the bird so I do not recommend this approach for most people. Only put this into effect if you have had extensive success training your parrot and want to take it one step further.
My clicker approach is made up of two parts. First is transforming the clicker from a bridge to a secondary reinforcer and the second is to use it in this way with multiple parrots simultaneously. Both of these parts require extensive successful clicker training of one bird at a time. Thereafter, either one or both of these can be applied although I would put off training two parrots simultaneously to the last. If you don't anticipate to move away from one click means one treat, you can skip to clicker training two parrots together.
The main reason I moved away from one click means one treat was because I wanted to train Kili to perform many different tricks but couldn't give her treats for everything or she would get too full. Thus I employed a variable ratio reinforcement schedule when it comes to treats. What this means is that the parrot has to complete the right behavior every time it is asked but only receives a treat some of the time at a random trial. However, one problem with doing this is that if the parrot botches one trick in the process, giving or not giving treats does not provide reliable performance feedback. With classic clicker training, not receiving a treat and likewise not receiving a click mark failure in regards to the bird's behavior. Since treats are necessary for continued motivation but providing them randomly provides poor feedback, I decided to use the clicker every time the right behavior is offered but provide food on a variable interval. Thus the clicker is used a continuous secondary reinforcer while the treats are provided on a variable ratio reinforcement schedule. This works out as a perfect blend of feedback and motivation with minimal satiation and maximum success/improvement.
In this way I can have my parrot run through 10 tricks in a row, click for the 9 correct times, not click for the 1 wrong time, and provide just a single treat at a random point (but only following a correct attempt). The parrot is still told that the 9 attempts were correct and could have earned a treat, 1 attempt was wrong and should not be done that way, and motivation was maintained the entire time. Furthermore, 10 treats could be used to elicit as many as 100 iterations (and thus 100 practices of performing the right tricks the right way at the right time) instead of just 10. This is how my special clicker approach is successful and goes well beyond the classic one click one treat approach. By having 110 trick attempts, 100 correct/successful ones, and 10 incorrect unclicked ones, he parrot has 10 opportunities to learn what not to do and 100 chances to learn what to do for the same number of treats that would have only provided 10 opportunities for learning. This allows my parrots to practice more behaviors, exercise more flight, and be overall more reliable than with the standard clicker approach.
Since the clicker has been so closely associated with food from the beginning, doing things to hear clicks can become desirable and thus a conditioned reinforcer of its own. Since good things tend to happen around clicks but don't have to, the parrots are still more inclined to demonstrate clicker-worthy behavior. This is also a great way to retain motivation through very high ratio variable reinforcement. For example, if I am going to make Kili fly 20 recalls to earn a single treat, as long as she keeps getting clicks, she knows it is worthwhile to keep trying and not give up. She knows from past training that as long as she keeps getting clicks, there will be a treat offered at some point. Since there is no other way to get that treat except to keep trying, that's the course she has to take to earn it.
Keep in mind that I only use this approach while I am sustaining tricks through practice. I do revert to the more effective continuous reinforcement strategy of one click one treat when teaching a fresh new trick. Once the parrot is well accustomed, I add that trick to my list of tricks to practice using variable reinforcement.
There are times when I chain behaviors either out of convenience or because it is a trick that requires multiple components. This is another great time to employ my click for correct behavior rather than treat for every correct behavior approach. Many times when I am training tricks to my parrots, I continue having them fly recalls to me from across the room for exercise. I used to feel bad when I would divert treats away from flight recall (which is valuable exercise) and use them for trick training instead. Lately, I've come up with a much better approach where I make my parrots first fly a long recall (or several) to me just to get the opportunity to practice a new trick to earn a treat.
After years of training, both of my parrots understand very well that new tricks earn treats every time while old behaviors only some of the time (although they are easier so they love to perform them). For this reason, they are very eager to give me some flight recalls for the chance to get a guaranteed treat for learning a new trick. Plus it's simply more fun that way.
Now when it comes to chaining tricks to form a long sequence, the clicker can apply in the same way. Let's take Kili's famous stroller trick (which was performed on the Late Show with David Letterman) as an example. Clearly the complete sequence is comprised of several independent tricks that she must perform in order. First she must pickup her baby, then she must patiently hold it for demonstration, then she must take it over to her stroller (and not the bed) and place it in, then she must walk around the stroller and start pushing it, then she must stop pushing and walk around, then transfer her baby from the stroller to the crib, rock the crib, and then finally wave goodnight to baby. How do you teach such a long chain to a parrot without stopping every couple of seconds to wait for it to eat a treat? This is where the click for every correct behavior but only a treat at a random time approach proves such a success! Obviously I taught Kili the separate tricks that combine into the sequence separately, but when I was finally teaching the complete sequence, I used this exact clicker approach. A problem that I was running into was her eagerness to skip steps to jump to the end and get the one final treat for finishing the sequence. For this reason I went back to the click every correct behavior and offer a random treat to ensure that all steps in the sequence are equally rewarding. After she got really good at the trick, I returned to clicking along the way (to remind her that she is doing things right by not skipping to the end) and only giving one treat at the end. Since she won't get a treat at the end of she misses a click along the way, she learned to patiently go through the entire routine.
The final non-standard complex use of the clicker I employ is teaching two parrots simultaneously while using just one clicker. I sneaky (but too annoying) approach could be to have two different sound makers where one is for each parrot and they know their sound. I differentiate who is earning clicks through attention and eye contact. Even though I say I train the parrots together, it's not actually in the exact same moment. Normally I'll have one bird stay on its training perch while I have the other fly over to me to learn something. The parrot near me knows it is earning the clicks and not the one far away. If I have the two birds on perches next to each other, they know when I am clicking for them because I am looking at them at the time of the click. Sometimes I have them perform the same tricks at the same time. In this case I am looking in a blank way toward both of them. They are exceptionally intelligent and catch onto all of these subtleties. The important thing is that I am consistent in these methods so the specifics they learned apply each time.
Although it might seem that mixing the clicker in the ways I do would be confusing or dilute its effectiveness, this couldn't be further from the truth in reality. Parrots are so highly intelligent and catch on to things very quickly. They learn the multi-dimensional complex of the clicker based on the context they observe. It's like we can hear the sound “toooo” and still be able to understand whether we are talking about “to”, “two”, or “too”. Since my mixed clicker strategy has not resulted in a diminish in clicker effectiveness (and in fact improved it), I am certain that parrots too can learn to understand things in context.
So that is my special mixed method of parrot clicker training. Although I would not recommend anything but the one click-one-treat approach to most people, I think this article should help clarify what I do and why. Also for the select few who have taught many tricks and wish to take their training to a new level, I share my approach. Whatever clicker approach you use, as long as it is effective, the parrot is learning, and you are both having fun in the process, it is already a major success.
I get often asked about leaving parrots home while going on vacation. Well this article is about how going away on vacation ends up being a vacation for the parrots as well! There are many reasons we can't bring our feathered friends with us whether its safety, accommodations, going abroad, or just needing to get away from the squawking and cleaning for a little bit. So this article is about making your absence tolerable for your parrots.
The first and definitely most important thing for preparing your parrots for your absence is getting them used to being without you beforehand. When we hear of stories of an owner leaving a parrot home a week to come back and find it plucked naked, often this is a result of the parrot being completely spoiled with attention and then suddenly deserted. But just like taming, independence also takes some getting used to for our feathered pals. Even if you don't see yourself going on vacation any time soon, it is still important to maintain a controlled relationship. What if someone in your family becomes ill and needs care? What if you get sent some place for work? There are many unexpected scenarios besides just taking a vacation that may require our parrots to cope without our presence. The only way to prepare them for this is by letting them experience this beforehand.
Your parrot needs to be just as capable of spending time alone as with you. Surely many of us are more concerned with taming and getting them to behave with us, but we must not take this too far and make them entirely dependent on us either. This is why (both for training and vacation purposes) I recommend limited out of cage and interaction time daily. There are minimums and they are much discussed, but I also believe there should be maximums. It's impossible to put exact numbers on it but the point is that your parrot needs to spend enough time in its cage on its own every day that it won't entirely freak out when suddenly you aren't around a day.
It is important to provide good cage enrichment and activities. Of course this is much discussed elsewhere and is a good practice all the time. While maintaining routine is convenient and reassuring, it's important to be spontaneous from time to time. Yes, I try to be home to see my parrots on time, feed them at the normal time, etc. But once in a while if I need to be out late or decide to put them to sleep late than usual, it just prepares them for dealing with out of the ordinary scenarios. If I actually end up going a very long time without a natural break in the routine, I may opt to not take them out a certain day despite being home just to simulate this. But normally there are real reasons for this to happen so I generally save it for these occasions.
Don't be scared to leave the parrots home for an entire day or weekend (preferably with someone to keep an eye on them). If you've never done it before, be sure to see how they do a weekend without your presence prior to leaving them for an entire week or more. Try progressively longer durations. If you are leaving the birds alone for 12-48 hours without anyone to check up on them, consider leaving multiple sources of food and water in case any are spoiled or contaminated. A water bottle is preferable. Never leave parrots completely unattended for more than 2 days at a time though because if anything does happen to their food/water supply, they won't be able to make it much longer than this without intervention.
A question that frequently comes up is if it is better to leave parrots at home and have someone come to take care or to bring them along with their cages to someone else's home. Unless it cannot be arranged, I think it is much better and safer for the parrots to stay home. Not only are they familiar at home but they will also feel safer. To take both their favorite person away and the familiarity of their surroundings is more stressful. People worry that they'll get bored without people around, but I think if you make the above mentioned preparations they will be equipped to deal with it. Another thing is that the parrots are significantly safer remaining in your own home. As a parrot owner, you've probably spent years making your home bird safe. It is easy to begin to take this for granted and forget dangers they could face in someone else's home such as teflon fumes, other pets, children, ceiling fans, windows, etc. For all these reasons, it is best to have a sitter come briefly to your home to care for the parrots each day rather than take the birds to their own home.
When having someone birdsit for you, one of the most important considerations is whether or not they will handle the parrots. In most cases, unless the person is both familiar with parrots and specifically familiar with handling yours, it is safer not to have them let the parrots out. As much as it sucks to stay in the cage for two weeks straight, it is safer than being let loose in your home by someone who can't put them back away. Still, discuss a contingency plan with the birdsitter about what to do if they get out and cannot be returned to their cage. The sitter should leave the cage doors open and cage loaded with food so that the parrot can eventually go back inside to feed.
When I am away, I like to leave my parrots more toys than usual to keep them busy. I put in several new toys to provide with more activity and material for the parrots to play with. However, I also like to leave a few old favorite toys for familiarity as well. I make sure not to rearrange the perches just before leaving instead favoring a tried and true cage layout. This is not the time to experiment with new kinds of toys though, so any new toys that are provided should be similar to safe/successful toys in the past.
I usually end up writing a basic manual covering all things that need to be taken care of and possible contingencies for my bird sitter. So not only do I tell about the basic things that need to be done but also what to do in case there are problems and I cannot be reached. This includes biting, escape, illness, vet care, etc. At the same time, I try to reduce unnecessary activities by as much as possible not to burden the sitter too much.
The birds are fed exclusively pellets while I'm gone. Why? This is safest, simplest, and most nutritious. This is the least burden but also least responsibility for the care taker. The parrots are guaranteed to get all the nutrition they require, the food won't spoil, and it's very easy to guarantee that they don't run out of food in any way. Although I normally follow strict food management, I have my birds overfed while I'm gone. A normal pellet meal won't even line the entire bottom of their food bowls but when I'm gone I have the bowls nearly topped off. I make sure the birds are left with enough food to last several days despite the sitter coming daily. This is to ensure that if for any reason the sitter skips a day, the birds have enough food and water to get by. While we are concerned about long term diet and variety in their meals, a 100% unlimited pellet diet for a few weeks won't do any harm for a parrot that is accustomed to eating pellets.
Aritos, Latin American Onion Ring Parrot Chips (Ara + Fritos = Aritos?)
Finally, the reason I called this parrot vacation is because if done right, this can be as much of a relaxing vacation for your parrots as it is for you. Recently I spent a week traveling in Central America while my brother came once a day to take care of Kili and Truman. He is fully qualified to handle them so he would let them out for as much as an hour every day to fly around. They couldn't be more thrilled! I came back to find they had assumed full control of the situation! My computer mouse was destroyed, poop all over the carpets, and the birds helping themselves to places I would never allow them to go. Not only this, but they stuffed their crops to the brink for every day nonstop. No discipline, no food management, no responsibility. It truly was a vacation for them as well. But this is ok. Let them have it easy while you're gone and then work the taming, training, and order back in once you return.
So with all the preparations that were made over time, it was no trouble at all to leave the parrots home for a week. I got to take a vacation and do some traveling. Meanwhile Kili & Truman also got to take a vacation from training and just enjoy being wild for a little bit.
Thank you for visiting the parrot training blog trainedparrot.com. The website will be up soon but in the meantime please visit the parrot forum.
This is a blog about how I trained my Senegal Parrot but it is relevant to training any kind of parrot
People often ask me how I trained my parrot but unfortunately I do not have videos of the early training sessions with Kili. So now that I am getting a new Cape Parrot, I intend to record videos and write articles about it from the very beginning
This parrot blog has been created to discuss, display, post about and talk about how to teach and tame parrots. This blog will show experiences in methods of how to train a parakeet a trick. This blog will also reveal experiences with how to tame and bond with a Senegal Parrot. Experiences training an African Grey to talk on cue will be discussed on this blog. This blog will show that parrots are incredibly entertaining and fascinating animals that can bring a lot of joy to their owner's lives. Owning one may involve training tricks, taming, bonding, and caring for these intelligent animals. Although parrots are extremely enjoyable companion pets, this blog will show that they do have downsides. Parrots love to chew, and they will make a mess. Many parrots have are aggressive or scared. Some parrots will bite, lunge, screech, scream and fly away out of aggression, to defend their territory, or out of fear. Problems can be overlooked or overcome if you teach, train and tame a parrot with the correct techniques used by contributors of this blog.
For anyone who is considering a parrot as a pet, a considerable amount of research and evaluation should be done before a decision is made. Some companion bird species can outlive their owner. An Eclectus may live for 65 years, an Amazon has a life expectancy of about 50 years, a Macaw may reach the age of 60 years, Budgies can live to be about 20 years old, and some Cockatoos can live to be about 65 years old but a Cockatiel may live for 20 years. As a result of such a long lifespan in many species, a parrot should be a lifetime commitment. You must imagine yourself later into your life and consider if you would still be willing to care for your pet decades from now.
This blog will depict a log of experiences of parrot owners who teach their parrots how to perform a trick and the process involved to train one to mimic an entertaining word, phrase, or sound. Some basic tricks to teach a parakeet how to perform are wave, shake, nod, spin or turn around, and show or lift and spread wings. This blog will depict experiences with target or stick training, using a clicker, and this blog will depict experiences with how to use this technique and a clicker to train tricks. Teaching tricks shown on this blog is an incredibly fun and enjoyable way to bond with your parrot. Target or stick train and clicker techniues apply to parrots of all sizes, including a parakeet, a parrotlet, a lovebird, a lorikeet, a caique, a senegal parrot, a meyer's parrot, a red bellied parrrot, an eclectus parrot, an african grey parrot, an amazon, a cockatiel, a cockatoo, and a macaw.
Many parrots are chosen for specific desired qualities that generally occur in that type. Amazon parrots are bold, friendly and confident talking parrots and they can learn to sing songs. African Grey parrots are known to be one the best and clearest talkers. Cockatoos are extremely cuddly, playful and affectionate but demanding birds. Macaws are large, brightly colored and loving parrots with the potential for a very big bite. Poicephalus parrots are small, quiet birds with a bigger bird type of personality. Conures are parakeets with some varieties having extremely beautiful plumage but they are known to be loud. Budgerigars, parrotlets, and lovebirds are small, inexpensive and widely available parrots with many beautiful genetic mutations.
Blog Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get my Alexandrine parakeet to step up?
Training a bird to step up is a universal technique that can be applied to a parakeet, as well as a macaw, grey, cockatoo, amazon, conure, poicephalus, lovebird, parrotlet, caique, and more. In order to teach your parakeet how to step up, you must think of a command you would like to use to cue your Alexandrine parakeet when you would like it to step up. You can choose to say something such as "Up", "Step Up" or "Hop Up" and always use it as your cue. To teach your parakeet how to step up, you simply hold your finger out under your Alexandrine parakeet's abdomen, press it gently against your Alexandrine parakeet, and your bird will become unbalanced. In order to correct its balance, it will step forward and up onto your finger. To make this training effective and rewarding, always reward your parakeet with praise each time they step up onto your finger. Saying "good" or "good bird" and giving your parakeet attention when they step up will teach your parakeet that if they step up onto your finger, they will enjoy it.
What are the essential items needed to own for an Amazon parrot? What supplies do I need to buy from a pet supplies store when I purchase my Amazon parrot?
The Amazon parrot is a large sized parrot and needs an appropriately large sized cage. Your Amazon parrot should be able to move around a bit inside of its cage, as well as have room to stretch its wings completely. A cage for an Amazon would most likely also be appropriate for an African Grey, a Cockatoo, an Ecelctus, and possibly a Macaw. You will need to make sure that the spacing between the bars of your cage is appropriately sized for your bird. Your Amazon should not be able to stick its head through the bars of the cage because that is a safety hazard for a parrot and it is extremely dangerous. Some pet supplies store items that are essential for owning an Amazon are a variety of types of parrot toys, a variety of natural wood perches, food bowls, a water bottle, a cuttle bone or mineral block, food, treats, and vitamins. In addition, you should purchase a book about owning your Amazon, a carrier for traveling, and supplies to clean your Amazon parrot's cage.
How do I stop my Sun Conure from screaming when I leave the room?
The Jenday Conure, the Nanday Conure, and the Sun Conure are known to be very loud. If your Sun Conure has learned to scream for you whenever you leave and you responded to the scream by giving it attention instead of leaving, it has learned to scream to get your attention. In order to get your Conure to stop screaming for attention, all you can do is simply ignore the behavior. Never respond to your Conure screaming whenever you leave and your Conure will figure out on its own that screaming is a waste of effort and time. It may take a while to undo all the reinforcing you have made to the screaming and your Conure may have screaming fits for days or weeks before it learns to stop trying, but you cannot be sympathetic to the screaming.
Why do you need to weigh your Blue and Gold Macaw on a scale?
It is important to weigh your Blue and Yellow Macaw on a gram scale because Macaws, like all parrots, hide illnesses. You may not realize that your Blue and Yellow Macaw is ill you have weighed it on a scale and noticed that your bird is underweight. Being underweight may be a sign of a disease of some kind such as a bacterial crop infection, a virus or another kind sickness. A large gram scale may be needed with a perch on it to weigh large species of Macaws. It is important to continually weigh your Macaw and find out your Macaw's average weight based on its normal fluctuations and watch for this seemingly unnoticed symptom. If you notice that your Blue and Gold Macaw continues to have a very low weight or is losing weight dramatically, it is important to take your bird to a veterinarian immediately for an examination and treatment.
Should I clip my Senegal Parrot's wings?
Clipping your Senegal parrot's wings has many downsides. If your clipped Senegal parrrot falls, it may not be able to catch its own fall and it may suffer from an injury. A poicephalus parrot without flight feathers would be very vulnerable to a serious injury from a hard fall. If your clipped Poicephalus parrot molts in new feathers, the new primary feathers will stick out. As the new flight feathers molt in and they are developing, they may break. If a blood feather breaks, your Senegal parrot may suffer from a tremendous amount of bleeding. These problems can be avoided by not clipping your Senegal Parrot's wings. All poicephalus parrots can benefit from being flighted, including the Meyer's Parrot, the Red Bellied Parrot, the Brown Headed Parrot, the Jardine's Parrot, the Cape Parrot, and the Rüppell's Parrot.
How do you target train your Congo African Grey parrot?
Target training is a fundamental skill your parrot should learn. To begin to teach or train your African Grey parrot how to target, you should obtain an unused, untoxic chop stick. Hold the stick out in front of your Africa Grey parrot in the hopes that they might bite the very tip of the chop stick. If they touch it at all, even by accident, click your clicker and reward them with a treat. If they are not interested, you may have to force them by touching the stick to their beak and rewarding them. Always reward for them touching the end of the stick. Always wait for them to touch the stick or take it away out of their sight, wait a minute, and then try again with an easier distance. Be sure to vary the distance and the direction as much as you possibly can. Targeting is the most useful behavior to teach an African Grey or any other species because it can be used to teach your African Grey to perform a trick or follow the target stick where you want your parrot to go.
How do you stop a Lovebird from biting you?
It is impossible to stop your Lovebird from biting. Start teaching your Lovebird to behave the way you'd like it to by never reacting to any of the bites your Lovebird is giving you. Do not ever try to punish your bird, yell at your bird, or put your Lovebird away as a result of a bite. You must ignore a bite at all times to prevent bites from being reinforced. Luckily, lovebirds have a small beak and they cannot bite very hard. Similarly, Budgies, Parrotlets, Cockatiels, and Parakeets have very small beaks and very weak bites. However, you can distract your Lovebird when it is biting you in several ways. You can misbalance your Lovebird if it is perched on you, you can cue your bird to do a trick and you can make your bird step up onto your fingers repeatedly to tire your bird. If you train your Lovebird to perform a trick, it will most likely try to do a trick to earn a treat instead of trying to bite you. If you teach your bird how to target to a chopstick, you will have an effective hands off method of handling your Lovebird. In addition, your Lovebird will have a positive association with you if you are giving it a reward. These tips can be applied to all other species of parrots regardless of size in avoiding and preventing bites or any aggressive behavior.
Is it safe to have nonstick pans if I own a Parrotlet or are they dangerous and toxic to birds?
The fumes given off from overheating the nonstick coating on nonstick pans is toxic and fatal to a Parrotlet, Lovebird, Budgie, Parakeet, Conure, Cockatiel, Caique, Poicephalus, Eclectus, Grey, Amazon, Cockatoo, Macaw and all other parrots. You should immediately dispose of and purchase an alternative to your nonstick pans. People think that nonstick pans are safe to keep as long as they are not overheated, but this is not true and too risky for the safety of your Parrotlet. You can use affordable alternatives to your nonstick pans such as stainless steel pans and cast iron pans which do not give off toxic fumes.
Is it safe to have a pet cat or dog along with my Budgies?
Cats and dogs are predatory, meat eating animals who they can and most likely will injure, kill and consume your Budgies. It is extremely unsafe to own a cat or a dog with any kind of parrot because there is an extreme risk that a cat or a dog would get into your their cage and harm your bird if you are not there to watch your pets all of the time. A cat or a dog would also be dangerous to keep around larger parrots that they may not be capable of eating such as the African Grey, Cockatoo, Amazon, and Macaw because of bacteria present in cat and dog saliva. This bacteria could cause a fatal blood infection in your Budgies.